An Easter Gathering in the Garden
"Easter is probably my favorite holiday," says Nashville-based stylist and author Katie Jacobs. "It's a breath of fresh air. Everybody is ready to get outside, and I always want pretty flowers and plants in my house." Inspired by childhood egg hunts in her grandmother's garden, the hostess ushers in springtime with a do-it-yourself centerpiece party, where guests fill baskets with seasonal greenery and blooms. Here's how to pull off the creative gathering in your own backyard.
Choose Flora That Will Go the Distance
Stock up on an array of options from your local garden center to make the arrangements. "Potted plants are pretty inexpensive, and they'll last longer," says Jacobs. "If you do a centerpiece of cut flowers, you may get a week out of it. These will last from Easter through Mother's Day." She recommends using maidenhair ferns as the base, filling in the basket with greenery such as caladiums, and then adding purple and pink blooms like angelonias, strawflowers, astilbes, and zinnias. "As long as you're providing guests with a variety of textures and heights, it's really simple for them to create beautiful looks with three or four plants, even if they know nothing about flowers," she says.
Ask Guests To BYOB(asket)
Rather than purchasing expensive vessels to hold the arrangements, the hostess encourages friends to bring their own Easter baskets. It saves money and also ensures guests take home centerpieces that suit their spaces.
Plant a Personal Touch
Instead of traditional place cards, Jacobs keeps decor on theme using plant markers penned with everyone's names by Abigail T. Calligraphy. Each station also has colorful gloves and garden shears for friends to take with them as favors. "Those are little things that are inexpensive, but they add a personalized element that's really fun," she says. Even when larger gatherings are safe again, Jacobs notes that keeping the guest list small is wise: "When you're inviting only a few people, you can do it up more."
Jacobs set up an art project to keep the little ones busy. She cut out paper flowers and glued on cupcake-liner centers and wooden craft stick stems in advance, leaving only the watercoloring for her younger guests.
Follow a Formula
"I always tell people to craft one thing, buy one thing, and use one thing they already have," says Jacobs. She set the table with an antique tablecloth and ceramic bunnies she had at home, accented a terra-cotta pot with calligraphy, and filled in the gaps with locally made plates from Maisie Ceramics and watering can-shaped baskets from Target.
Put Bubbly on Ice
In a wow-worthy move, Jacobs made a Champagne container by freezing Queen Anne's lace in a mold she made herself.
Here's how to do it: Place a bucket that's large enough to hold a bottle of Champagne into a slightly larger bucket (the space between the two will determine the thickness of the "walls" of ice). Fill the space between the vessels with Queen Anne's lace or other wildflowers. Then pour water to the top, and freeze for 24 to 48 hours.
Pro tip: Unfiltered water will result in clouded ice, so use the filtered kind (or boil tap water before freezing) for a clearer look. Additionally, do not freeze for longer than 48 hours, or the live flowers will die.
Dress Up Your Drink
"The easiest, quickest trick to dazzle your friends is to freeze things in ice cubes," says the stylist. For the Elderflower-Champagne Cocktail, she plucked some flowers from the garden and froze them in an ice tray. Be sure to choose blooms wisely. "There are poisonous ones out there, so check a list of edible flowers before you put them in your glass," Jacobs adds.
Elevate the Veggies
A crudités platter can look elegant if you're willing to spend a little time putting it together. Plus it's an inexpensive snack for a crowd. "The key is to include pops of color," she says. "I went to the farmers' market and chose carrots that were purple, orange, and yellow and radishes that were pretty on the inside." Add cauliflower and sprouts for texture too.
Make Healthy Snacks Fun
Even the pickiest eaters may give veggies a chance when they are served in tiny pots decorated with felt bunny ears and cotton ball tails. The mini vessels can also double as budget-friendly party favors.
Think Small for Sweets
"Hummingbird cake is a long-standing Easter tradition in my family, but I wanted something that was easy to pick up," she says of her cream cheese frosting-filled whoopie pies. Making individual servings also minimizes how much the host is handling guests' food.